Relief Workers Decry Living Conditions in South Sudan Refugee Camp

BY Larisa Epatko  July 13, 2012 at 1:47 PM EST


A malnourished child receives treatment at a clinic in a camp in Jamam, South Sudan on June 20. Photo by Giulio Petrocco/AFP/Getty Images.

Sudanese taking refuge in a tent camp in Jamam, South Sudan, may have escaped the fighting around their homes but are finding their plight is not over yet.

The refugees have traveled from the Blue Nile region along the border of Sudan and South Sudan to escape fighting between Sudanese government forces and the local army, which wants no influence from the North.

But the Jamam camp, where they have fled, is “not a safe place for them to be” either, said Peter Struijf of Oxfam, according to an Independent Television News report. “We are very worried about disease outbreaks. We need someone at a higher level to make a strategic decision to solve this problem once and for all and that probably means moving most people out of Jamam. If not all.”

New refugees are arriving daily, and the camp has swelled to about 40,000 people. The U.N. refugee agency is working to move people to more stable areas, but the rainy season has washed out roads and makes it challenging to move large numbers by bus or truck.


Refugees from the Ingessana Hills in Sudan line up for water in the Jamam refugee camp on June 19. Photo by Alan Boswell / MCT via Getty Images.

“It wasn’t a planned camp,” explained Fredeeric Cussigh, head of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees’ field office. “It was a self-created camp where refugees settled. It’s a de facto camp rather than an organized camp.”

One of the residents of the camp, Efendi Badi el-Tom, the head of the Ingessana people who live in the hill country of eastern Sudan, said he doesn’t blame UNHCR. “I blame [Sudanese President] Omar al-Bashir because if he hadn’t shot and bombed us, we would have avoided all this. We are mountain people. The Ingessana people want to go home and find peace and finish this terrible war. Our hearts are broken.”

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